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Homeland Security investigating Kennedy Airport false alarm

Air travelers crouch and lie flat on Sunday,

Air travelers crouch and lie flat on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2016, after being warned of a bomb and shooting in a terminal at Kennedy Airport. Officials later said it was a false alarm. Credit: AFP / Getty Images / Brigitte Dusseau

PORT OF NEWARK — The Obama administration plans to investigate how authorities handled false reports of gunfire at Kennedy Airport that panicked passengers and caused flight delays, the head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said Saturday.

“I’ve asked my folks, the TSA, to take a hard look at the event and the response to the event,” said Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, who oversees the Transportation Security Administration.

The false alarm at JFK on Aug. 14 exposed holes in the emergency planning of federal and local agencies, including the TSA, NYPD and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the bistate agency that runs the local airports. The agency is controlled jointly by the governors of New York and New Jersey.

Johnson said he hoped to discuss the matter with New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who earlier in the week ordered a separate inquiry into what happened.

“But I’ve asked my own folks to take a look at the response and make a judgment, make an assessment, whether there are some lessons learned there,” said Johnson, who was in New Jersey for a terrorism drill.

Cuomo spokeswoman Dani Lever replied to a query Saturday about Johnson’s remarks with a transcript of Cuomo’s remarks from Wednesday in which he said, “the whole incident was unfortunate, but we can actually learn from these situations.”

During the false alarm, apparently triggered by someone who mistook innocuous noise for gunshots, passengers were refused entry to a safe area, police commanders couldn’t access surveillance video feeds and TSA agents ran through an airport terminal, screaming about the presence of a bomb and a shooting victim, neither of which was true.


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